One of my first food memories involves meatballs. My grandma made them, my aunt Pat made them, my mom made them, and now I make them. I can’t say that this recipe has been passed down in its exact form over the years because there have been many personal tweaks along the way. I also don’t think anyone wrote down this recipe before me. They didn’t do that. However, I can say that this recipe is a must-have in every Italian household that I’ve ever known and will remain that way in my own home!
The picture below is of all my siblings with my mom and aunt.
Two of the best self-trained cooks I know.
My favorite part of making meatballs is squishing the meat around with the cold eggs and dry bread crumbs. As weird as it is, that feeling reminds me of being home. As I got older and my mom started working again, dinner was sometimes hectic. I would help her out in the kitchen. By helping, I mean she would put all the ingredients in a bowl and tell me to make meatballs. It’s a good thing I paid attention to what she was putting in there! I changed our family recipe slightly by using fresh herbs instead of dry, when I can of course. I also add a lot of cheese because, well, I like cheese. That’s no surprise if you follow this blog. Once the meatballs start to cook, a little bit of the Parmesan cheese will start to ooze out of them. <DROOL> They also develop a beautiful brown crispiness to the outside of them. You can eat them all alone – that’s how good they are!
When I was younger I remember getting home from school around 3pm, right about the time when these meatballs were coming out of the oven. My mom would feed us a meatball with a little gravy over the top of it for an after-school snack. (WOW, how Italian am I?) I’m pretty sure the gravy (a.k.a. red sauce) had been cooking for at least an hour before I got a taste. I would devour it piping hot right out of the oven and enjoyed every second of it. Although, waiting a little longer for dinner was the real prize. Having those meatballs simmer away in the gravy was worth the wait.
I shared this same memory with my sister Victoria, who is 7 years younger than me, and she remembers it too! Now that’s what I call a tradition.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2-3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 eggs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 4 cups of marinara sauce (preferably homemade)
- 1 lb pasta of your choice
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and pour olive oil over top.
- Combine ground beef and next 8 ingredients (through parsley) in a large bowl. Your hands are the best tools for this. Be careful not to over-mix. Shape into 12 meatballs. Place about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn them over, and continue baking for another 15 minutes.
- Transfer meatballs to warm marinara sauce. Let them simmer in the sauce for at least 45 minutes. Serve with pasta and top with more Parmesan cheese.
Thank you Grandma for this recipe and for the tradition that follows it. I can’t wait to feed my children meatballs after school. I will miss you always Grandma.
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